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Wal-Mart Sets up 19 Trade Unions in Chinese Outlets
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The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart has established 19 trade unions in its Chinese outlets since late July, disclosed an official of the All-China Federation of Trade Unions (ACFTU) on Friday.

"The negotiations between Wal-Mart and the ACFTU have proved fruitful. The two sides have agreed to set up trade unions in Wal-Mart Chinese outlets on a cooperative and harmonious basis and in line with Chinese laws," an ACFTU official said Friday in an interview with Xinhua.

The two sides agreed that the candidates for trade union posts in a Wal-Mart Chinese outlet should be approved by a higher-level trade union after work staff's nomination.

Then, the work staff will elect, by secret ballot, a chairman, vice chairpersons and other posts in the trade union committee. The election outcome should be reported to the higher level trade union for approval, said the official.

The outlet's manager, vice managers, human resources managers and their family relatives are not entitled to be trade union chairpersons, vice chairpersons or trade union committee members, said the official.

Wal-Mart has made commitments to help China's union authority establish branches in all its stores in China and strictly perform the duties written in China's Law on Trade Unions.

Wal-Mart opened its first outlet in China in 1996. Until July 29 this year, no Wal-Mart Chinese outlets had set up trade unions.

The world's leading retailer has some 1.6 million employees in 16 countries and regions. And Wal-Mart's 60 Chinese outlets employ 23,000 people.

Wal-Mart has traditionally not allowed trade unions in its outlets, for which it has been widely criticized by human rights groups and labor organizations.

With mounting pressure from the ACFTU and the public, Wal-Mart China backed down in 2004 by saying in a statement that "Should associates request the formation of a union, Wal-Mart China will respect their wishes and honor its obligations under China's trade union law."

On July 29, its outlet in Jinjiang City, east China's Fujian Province, set up a trade union. In the following 20 days, another 18 trade unions were established in Wal-Mart's outlets in the cities of Shenzhen, Nanjing, Fuzhou, Jinan, Shenyang, Dalian, Nanchang, Qingdao, Wuhan and Taiyuan.

Joe Hatfield, president of Wal-Mart Asia, recently said he hoped to establish a good relationship with the ACFTU and local branches that would be beneficial to Wal-Mart employees and business development.

"We think it is in line with the Chinese government's efforts to build a harmonious society," Hatfield added.

The ACFTU has a membership of 150 million and has 1.174 million branches. In 2006, the union plans to install more than 120,000 branches across the country, with more than 13 million new members.

One of the major tasks of the ACFTU in 2006 is to push foreign-funded or transnational companies to unionize, according to sources with the ACFTU.

Up to date, about 26 percent of China's 150,000-odd foreign-funded enterprises have established trade unions, with a total membership of 4.29 million.

(Xinhua News Agency August 19, 2006)

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